Monday, 3 December 2018

Five years - Eternal life and the eternal city

Ali in Rome, August 1993
As I reflect on the five years since Ali entered eternal life on 3 December 2013,  my thoughts also turn to the eternal city, Rome, that we visited together for the first time, 20 years earlier, in August 1993.

On that occasion we had the joy and privilege of meeting Pope John Paul II after the weekly general audience of 18 August 1993.  As much as four years earlier - before she was even a Catholic - I had the conviction that Ali would one day be canonised a saint, and Pope John Paul II was clearly a living saint.  Since then John Paul has, of course, been canonised,  and God willing, one of his successors will canonise Ali in due course...

With St John Paul II in August 1993
Ali spoke (in Auckland, NZ, in Octoberr 2009) of "feeling pretty much on the margins of the church -  but given that our Saviour was the most marginalised of all, I know I couldn’t be in better company."   For most of her time as a Catholic she felt marginalised within if not excluded by the Church, which caused acute suffering. But she recognised that, no matter the human shortcomings of those within the Church (amongst whom she included herself with her own faults) the Church was the repository of truth where we receive the gifts for eternal life.  Three days before she died, on Saturday 30 November 2013,  Ali testified to her total acceptance of the Catholic faith.  Did she, I ask, fully accept the teachings of the Catholic Church?  "Yes."   Were there any teachings she did not accept?  "No."

When I first knew Ali she wasn't a Catholic, and even when she died many people were under the misapprehension that it was my influence that led to her becoming a Catholic.  This is far from being the case.  Although raised a Catholic,  I had been drifting away and it was Ali who brought me back to an understanding and practice of the faith.  

I first learned and prayed the rosary in 1989 at the age of 23.  Looking back, I am quite shocked that I could have reached that age with only a vague awareness of what the rosary was, and that I had never prayed it.  It was the non-Catholic Ali who taught it to me, and with whom I first prayed it.  

When we met St John Paul II he told us to "pray together,"  and it was the rosary which, above all other prayers, we would pray together.  Ali's words to me on the "perfect rosary" (from the year before we met the Pope) are particularly apt today as our thoughts turn to that momentous day of five years ago:
"I think that when I can say a perfect rosary, then I can die.  Of course, every time I say it, I try to say it perfectly, but however hard I try my mind always wanders on at least one Ave Maria, or I forget to look at Mama [Our Lady] the whole time.  When I can say it perfectly I will have perfectly learned everything this world can teach, and I could be perfectly with Mama and Jesus then.
A perfect rosary would be perfect reparation for the offences my sins have caused Mama's Immaculate Heart and Jesus' Sacred Heart, and then after that I would like to die.  I think maybe that should be the goal of all who want to spend eternity with Jesus and Mama in Heaven." (4 Sept 1992)
It is ordinarily required for at least five years to have passed after someone's death before their cause for canonisation can be considered.  While Ali was known and loved by many, much of what was truly extraordinary about her was hidden and known only to me.  Now that five years have passed since Ali entered eternal life, I am somewhat daunted by the task ahead of me, to do justice to her in presenting her extraordinary life.  I would appreciate prayers to help me to fulfill what I must do. And, please God, it won't be too long before Ali's portrait is unfurled in the eternal city, in front of St Peter's Basilica, when she too is declared among the saints.

At the Trevi fountain
Ali in St Peter's Square